12 April 1939
Johannesburg, South Africa
|Died||25 June 2008
Gympie, Queensland, Australia
|Education||Rondebosch Boys' High School|
|Alma mater||Witwatersrand University
University of London
Lyall Watson (12 April 1939 – 25 June 2008) was a South African botanist, zoologist, biologist, anthropologist, ethologist, and author of many new age books, among the most popular of which is the best seller Supernature. Lyall Watson tried to make sense of natural and supernatural phenomena in biological terms. He is credited with coining the "Hundredth Monkey" phenomenon (an idea that has since been discredited) in his 1979 book, Lifetide.
He was born in Johannesburg as Malcolm Lyall-Watson. He had an early fascination for nature in the surrounding bush, learning from Zulu and !Kung bushmen. Watson attended boarding school at Rondebosch Boys' High School in Cape Town, completing his studies in 1955. He enrolled at Witwatersrand University in 1956, where he earned degrees in botany and zoology, before securing an apprenticeship in palaentology under Raymond Dart, leading on to anthropological studies in Germany and the Netherlands. Later he earned degrees in geology, chemistry, marine biology, ecology and anthropology. He completed a doctorate in ethology at the University of London, under Desmond Morris. He also worked at the BBC writing and producing nature documentaries.
Around this time he shortened his name to Lyall Watson. He served as director of the Johannesburg Zoo, an expedition leader to various locales, and Seychelles commissioner for the International Whaling Commission.
He was married three times. His first two marriages ended in divorce, and his third wife died in 2003. He was the eldest of three brothers, one of whom (Andrew) lived in Gympie, Queensland, Australia. It was while visiting Andrew that he died on 25 June 2008.
Lyall Watson began writing his first book, Omnivore during the early 1960s while under the supervision of Desmond Morris, and wrote more than 21 others.
- Omnivore: The Role of Food in Human Evolution (1972)
- Supernature: A Natural History of the Supernatural (1973)
- The Biology of Death: A Matter of Life and Death (1974)
- The Romeo Error (1974)
- Gifts of Unknown Things: An Indonesian Adventure (1976)
- Lifetide: a Biology of the Unconscious (1979)
- Whales of the World: A Field Guide to the Cetaceans (1981)
- Lightning Bird: An African Adventure (1982)
- Heaven's Breath: A Natural History of the Wind (1984)
- Bali Entranced: A Celebration of Ritual (1985) - published in Japanese only
- Dreams of Dragons: Essays on the Edge of Natural History (1986)
- Beyond Supernature: A New Natural History of the Supernatural (1986)
- The Water Planet: A Celebration of the Wonder of Water (1988)
- Neophilia: The Tradition of the New (1989)
- Sumo: A Guide to Sumo Wrestling (1989)
- The Nature of Things: The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects
- Lasting Nostalgia: Essays Out of Africa (1992) - published in Japanese only
- Turtle Islands: Ritual in Indonesia (1995)
- Dark Nature: A Natural History of Evil (1995)
- Monsoon: Essays on the Indian Ocean (1996) - published in Japanese only
- Lost Cradle: A Collection of Dialogues (1997) - published in Japanese only
- Warriors, Warthogs, and Wisdom: Growing up in Africa (1997)
- Jacobson's Organ and the Remarkable Nature of Smell (2000)
- Elephantoms: Tracking the Elephant (2002)
- The Whole Hog: Exploring the Extraordinary Potential of Pigs (2004)
- Amundson, Ron (Summer 1985). "The Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon". In Kendrick Frazier. Skeptical Inquirer: 348–356.
- Galef, B. G. (1992). "The question of animal culture". Human Nature 3 (2): 157–178. doi:10.1007/BF02692251.
- "Lyall Watson". The Telegraph. 2 July 2008.
- "Lyall Watson". Liverpool Daily News. 4 July 2008.
- Barker, Dennis (23 July 2008). "Lyall Watson". London: The Guardian.
- WATSON, Lyall International Who's Who. accessed 3 September 2006.